February 23, 2021

The Impact of the Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Pandemic on Outpatient Epilepsy Care: An Analysis of Physician Practices in Germany

Abstract, originally published in Epilepsy & Behavior

Objective: To gain insight into epilepsy care during coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, we analyzed prescription data of a large cohort of persons with epilepsy (PWE) during lockdown in Germany.

Methods: Information was obtained from the Disease Analyzer database, which collects anonymous demographic and medical data from practice computer systems of general practitioners (GP) and neurologists (NL) throughout Germany. We retrospectively compared prescription data for anti-seizure medication (ASM) and physicians’ notes of “known” and “new” PWE from January 2020 until May 2020 with the corresponding months in the three preceding years 2017-2019. Adherence was estimated by calculating the proportion of patients with follow-up prescriptions within 90 days after initial prescriptions in January or February. We additionally analyzed hospital referrals of PWE. The significance level was set to 0.01 to adjust for multiple comparisons.

Results: A total of 52,844 PWE were included. Anti-seizure medication prescriptions for known PWE increased in March 2020 (GP + 36%, NL + 29%; P < 0.01). By contrast, a decrease in prescriptions to known and new PWE was observed in April and significantly in May 2020 ranging from -16% to -29% (P < 0.01). The proportion of PWE receiving follow-up prescriptions was slightly higher in 2020 (73.5%) than in 2017-2019 (70.7%, P = 0.001). General practitioners and NL referred fewer PWE to hospitals in March 2020 (GP: -30%, P < 0.01; NL: -12%), April 2020 (GP: -29%, P < 0.01; NL: -37%), and May 2020 (GP: -24%, P < 0.01; NL: -16%).

Conclusion: Adherence of known people with epilepsy to anti-seizure medication treatment appeared to remain stable during lockdown in Germany. However, this study revealed findings which point to reduced care for newly diagnosed PWE as well as fewer hospital admissions. These elements may warrant consideration during future lockdown situations.

Related News